I have never felt as old as I have the last few months. I know I’m getting older of course, everyone does – it’s a given. But suddenly I find I’m classed as elderly! Me? – never! How/when did that happen?
I’m from the generation that would never be “old”. We’re the ones that refused to be clones of our fuddy-duddy parents, rejecting tweed, knee length skirts and three piece suits to wear mini-skirts, flowery shirts and flared denim jeans. We fought for our independence - left home before we were married to share grubby flats with friends. Sexual freedom was ours with the pill, we marched to Ban the Bomb, went to Rock Concerts, swaying in a Purple Haze with Jimmi Hendrix, surfed with The Beach Boys (metaphorically – there being no beach in the city and the internet of course was light years away) and happily sang along with The Beatles... When I’m 64... without actually thinking we’d ever get there.
I find it curious that by adding just two letters to the end of a word, its apparent meaning totally changes. By that I mean how you picture the image presented by the word. When I picture “an elder” I see an upright man or woman on whom longevity has bestowed wisdom. A village elder if you like, the person from whom society seeks advice.
Add “ly” to the end and create the word “elderly” and the whole image alters to the aforesaid man or woman bent over a walking stick or shuffling along.
If you google elder you will see images of upright folk busy doing things – e.g. The Council of Elders set up by Nelson Mandela that includes Kathy Calvin, (former president UN Foundation), Richard Branson (he of Virgin fame) and Peter Gabriel, (erstwhile rock singer in Genesis and human rights activist) – all of them from my generation - the game changers of the sixties.
Google elderly and the images are of people being assisted in care homes. In fact the word care features heavily. All very well meaning I’m sure. No doubt one day I’ll appreciate all that being cared for – but I’m not there yet and whilst I appreciate the concern for my welfare by our offspring and even the government, I would as ever, prefer to make my own decisions about how and when I go out. I’m quite capable of donning mask (denim with appliqued flowers perhaps?) and gloves and judging the necessary 2 metres of social distancing. I just happen to know that it also measures 2 yards 6 inches.